A Scottish take on “The Ransom of Red Chief” with felonies obbligato.
Veteran author Hammond ventures into territory far removed from his usual fishing/hunting backgrounds (Grail for Sale, 2002, etc.) in this tale of 20ish Alice Dunwoodie, who lives in a Scottish village with her mother and father, a self-described financial consultant. A bitter quarrel with her father over her lack of a job sends Alice storming out to the local bistro, where she meets her friend and neighbor Sarah McLeod, who rejoices in the relative perks of a temp. Walking home, they’re confronted at gunpoint by a pair of shabby kidnappers, put in a van, and driven to a decrepit barn prepared for them. But the two putative victims are anything but helpless. Alice soon persuades Foxy Brett and Tod Bracken to move to her family’s unused summer cottage. Once there, she and Sarah convince them of their families’ lack of big money and of their own willingness to help the clueless crooks find a haul elsewhere—for instance, the strongroom of the local supermarket, where Alice, exulting in her newfound powers, blackmails a worker into helping with the robbery. All seems to go smoothly, but the caper’s successful conclusion carries problems of its own. Working them out leads Alice to the shock of her life, a romance, and a return to a kind of normalcy.
Feisty if uningratiating characters in a complex, imaginative, though not always convincing story.